Don't you just hate it when there's an itch you can't scratch? That annoying problem happens to a lot of people in their ears!
I have watched in horror at people using a bobby pin, pen cap, or Q-tip to try to scratch the inside of their ear canal. While I understand the desire to want to scratch that itch, they're just making the problem worse.
Itchy ears can be caused by multiple problems, but it can be very common. The skin of the external auditory canal (ear canal) is very thin. For this reason, the ear canals are prone to injury and dryness.
The most common cause of itching ears is an inflammation of the lining of the ear canal due to an allergic reaction. This reaction can be caused by the use of certain shampoos or soaps, the material of a hearing aid or earplug, or from certain piercings around the ear canal.
If you begin to experience severe itching of the ears after you have changed hair products or soaps, it may mean that the product is causing a reaction in the ear canal. Even if you don't experience itching on the head, since the ear canal skin is very sensitive, it is more prone to irritation and inflammation from the product.
Fungal or Bacterial Infection
Another common cause of itching ears is from a fungal or bacterial infection of the external auditory canal.
Infections of the ear canals are more common in people with diabetes or if the ear is exposed to constant humidity, such as with hearing aid or earplug use, or when swimming frequently. The warm, humid, and dark environment of the ear canal is an ideal environment for infection to grow.
Systemic Skin Conditions
Itching ears may also be a side effect of a systemic skin condition affecting the rest of the body, such as psoriasis or eczema. If you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, it can also be affecting your ear canals.
Loss of Cerumen
A lot of people get grossed out when they think about having wax (cerumen) in their ears. But, the cerumen is actually a good thing. It protects the delicate skin of the ear canal and provides a lubrication.
When people attempt to remove ALL the cerumen from the ear canal, by using Q-tips or other cleaning agents, it will remove that protective layer and can cause the skin to dry out and become itchy and irritated.
What Can You Do About the Itching?
If you have just begun to wear earplugs or hearing aids and your ears begin to itch, you should speak to your hearing healthcare provider to determine if it is necessary to have hypoallergenic materials used in the casing of these products. You may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the plugs or hearing aids.
If your ears continue to itch chronically, you can see a dermatologist to rule out a systemic skin condition and see an ENT physician to rule out infection. Both of these conditions will need to be medically treated to reduce the itching.
The most important thing you can do to prevent and reduce itching ears is to keep things out of your ears.
That means no foreign objects such as Q-tips, and no liquids that have not been prescribed by your physician.